Senators Baldwin, Collins Introduce Bill to Strengthen TRIO Programs That Assist First-Generation, Low-Income Students Seeking a College Education

Bipartisan legislation would reauthorize programs that assist hundreds of thousands of students to achieve their dream of a college education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to strengthen the federal TRIO Programs and improve their outreach to underserved youth, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today introduced the bipartisan Educational Opportunity and Success Act. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) also cosponsored the legislation.

Nationwide, TRIO Programs help ensure that underserved students have equal access to a college education and the support they need to prepare for, succeed in, and graduate from higher education. The Educational Opportunity and Success Act would reauthorize the TRIO Programs, eliminate several onerous and unnecessary requirements, and institute commonsense reforms to make it easier for educational institutions to reach students who would benefit from these programs. 

“The TRIO program helps students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for and succeed in higher education,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will make this program more accessible to students so that even more young people, regardless of where they come from, can get the support they need to pursue higher education and reach their full potential.” 

“Congress created the TRIO Programs because it recognized that low-income, first-generation students often face significant financial and societal obstacles to accessing and achieving success in higher education,” said Senator Collins.  “I have long supported the TRIO Programs and worked to ensure that they are reaching the students who most need them. So many students in Maine and across the country have benefited from the life-changing academic and supportive services that these programs provide. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to strengthen TRIO.”

“TRIO programs are critically important when it comes to giving students in West Virginia and across the country opportunities to pursue higher education,” Senator Capito said. “Not only do these programs help hardworking young men and women receive a high-quality education, but they also give them a chance to build a lifetime of success and achievement. I’m proud this bill will ensure that future students are able to access the opportunities provided by TRIO and improve the programs so others can achieve their goals.”

“Montana’s TRIO programs have a proven track record of helping our underprivileged first-generation college students earn a college degree,” Senator Tester said. “These necessary, bipartisan improvements to TRIO will help build on its success—and the success of our state’s next generation— for years to come.”

“[The Council for Opportunity in Education] is delighted to support the Educational Opportunity and Success Act. This legislation takes important steps to simplify and streamline many aspects of the TRIO grant application process. It also promotes greater alignment between TRIO and other aid programs that support our nation’s neediest students. Taken together, these measures will reduce administrative burdens and ensure greater access for low-income students who aim to become the first members of their families to earn college degrees.”

The Educational Opportunity and Success Act would:

  • Reauthorize funds for the TRIO Programs through 2025.
  • Establish more reasonable guidelines for notice of pending grant competitions. The bill would require the Department of Education to increase its notification period from 45 days to 90 days to help ensure that all prospective TRIO grant applicants have an adequate opportunity to submit a successful application.
  • Remove administrative burdens to ease and update the application process. The bill would direct that applications denied in error be funded directly out of funds reserved for administrative purposes.
  • Institute common-sense guidelines for TRIO applications. The bill would make permanent a new policy that was implemented after the Department of Education attempted to reject dozens of TRIO applications for arbitrary, non-substantive formatting criteria, such as font size and line spacing, in 2017.  It would also institute a straightforward appeals process for minor errors.
  • Ease administrative burdens in determining income eligibility. The bill would allow TRIO administrators to work with colleges’ financial aid offices to more easily identify potential participants by virtue of their Pell-eligibility. Meanwhile, in middle and high schools, TRIO’s Talent Search and Educational Opportunity Centers programs would have the ability to serve all students at schools where more than 40 percent of attendees receive free or reduced-price lunch.
  • Update TRIO eligibility criteria to reflect the most recent FAFSA requirements. The bill would ensure that TRIO administrators do not have to consult multiple sources of data, but rather may use students’ most recently completed FAFSA to determine program eligibility.
  • Require virtual training to reach more applicants. The bill would require at least one virtual, interactive training for interested applicants, better ensuring that all areas of the country have the chance to access the TRIO programs.

Click HERE to read the bill text. Click HERE for a summary of the bill.